The 2010 vintage was truly one of a kind. Despite challenging weather conditions, Alsace’s wine professionals are satisfied that the final product is up to the expected high standard. Initial reports indicate a good degree of freshness across all wines and excellent typicity, but with a significant fall in yields compared to previous years.
Towards the end of 2009 – around December 20th – the Colmar region was exposed to severe temperatures, as low as -20°C in certain areas. Frozen buds affected young plantings, especially Gewurztraminers, delaying bud break by about three weeks. The cold and wet weather continued until the beginning of May. Warmer temperatures toward the end of the month helped to make up for lost time, and flowering began around June 20th; however, frosty conditions and irregular bud break slowed things down. Cold temperatures also affected fertilization, with coulure and millerandage making an unwelcome appearance. July brought some very warm weather, encouraging ripening and limiting risks to vine health. As harvest-time approached, a series of tests were carried out to measure ripeness, determine sugar levels, and the acidity in the grapes. Due to difficult weather, however, ripeness levels were variable from plot to plot. Controlling excess sturdiness in the vines was helpful in containing outbreaks of botrytis.
The Comité Régional d’Experts des Vins d’Alsace (CRINAO) declared the 2010 harvest opening dates as follows:
- Monday, September 13th for AOC Crémant d’Alsace
- Monday, September 27th for AOC Alsace and AOC Alsace Grand Cru in all villages except Kaefferkopf and Pfingsberg (delayed by one week), and Altenberg de Bergheim and Kanzlerberg (delayed by two weeks.)
- Tuesday, October 12th for late-harvest Vendanges Tardives and Sélection de Grains Nobles.
The first hints of a reprieve came around September 15th, as harvesting progressed, and the weather finally turned dry and sunny. Well developed acidity and reduced volumes of fruit meant higher sugar levels. Our 2010 wines will be fresh and intensely fruity, a great vintage to lay down. Yields of some varieties, however, are down across the board.
Initial reports from the cellars indicate that Crémant wines are beautifully fresh; Muscat and Pinot Blanc are crisp and packed with fruit, and Pinot Noir is also fruity and shows a lovely color following highly skillful extraction. Yields of Gewurztraminer are particularly low this year, but compensate with their fabulously fruity flavors and well balanced body and freshness; which is a characteristic of this year’s vintage. Pinot Gris is generally very fruity with no major problems reported.
Difficult weather conditions have also affected yields of Riesling, which tend to be low and somewhat variable this year, depending on the area. The Rieslings are showing lots of citrus flavors, as well as that characteristic freshness. Since conditions at the end of the season did not favor the development of Noble Rot, volumes of late-harvest Vendanges Tardives et Sélections de Grains Nobles are also down this year.
The predicted volume of the 2010 vintage across all AOCs is likely to be less than 1 million hectolitres, some 20% down on previous years.
For more information or samples, please contact Matt Arrowsmith at 212-682-2293 ext. 128 or firstname.lastname@example.org
California (Napa Valley and Mendocino County)
This was a problematic vintage for Riesling in both Napa Valley and Mendocino County. From the two vineyards, we get Riesling from Napa traditionally 3 to 4 weeks ahead of Mendocino with Napa coming in the end of August. Both vineyards are picked at 18 to 22 brix to produce a Halbtroken/off dry style Riesling with approx. 9.5 to 10.5% alcohol, .8% Residual Sugar and 2.9 to 3.1 pH.
This year, all the early ripening vineyards in Napa Valley got burned excessively. We had a cold growing season, with a heat spike towards the end that burned those vineyards that were 16 brix or higher. Thus the Napa Riesling was never harvested. Then early rains and cooler temperatures slowed down the ripening of those vineyards that did not get burned so that the Mendocino grapes did not end up getting harvested until end of October at 21 brix. Yield was down, but with higher than average quality on the Mendocino that we did harvest.
– By Scott Harvey, Owner/Winemaker, Scott Harvey Wines, Napa Valley
Canada (Niagara Peninsula, Ontario)
The 2010 growing season might well be one of the best in the recent history of Niagara winegrowing, ranking alongside great years such as 2007, 2002 and 1998. There was a very early start with April warmth followed by consistently hot weather straight through to harvest, accelerating growth and resulting in harvest beginning two weeks earlier than normal. April and May were drier than usual, but the precipitation was about average during the summer months resulting in excellent vine growth and ripening.
The Riesling harvest at Cave Spring, focused on the Beamsville and Twenty Mile Benches of the Niagara Escarpment, started the third week of September. The fruit was in excellent condition and significantly above average sugar levels, though surprising acidity retention will provide excellent balance in the finished wines. Despite the fact that it was an ideal season, the crop was reduced, depending on sites, from 20% to 40%. This reduction can be partly explained by the fact that some of our vineyards continued to recover from hail damage suffered in 2009. That said, there was no frost or significant botrytis, and there was ample rainfall as well, all of which normally would result in higher yields. We can only attribute the decreased crop to the natural cycle of the vine as both 2008 and 2009 generally saw sizeable yields in most vineyards.
The regular harvest Riesling wines will have higher than normal alcohol and somewhat less residual sugar, but should age gracefully given the ample acidity. It will be difficult for our Late Harvest and Icewine, however, as due to early ripening the remaining fruit on the vines went into the late season with very soft skins. Stay tuned for what the next month will yield for these wines.
– By Angelo Pavan, Winemaker
The 2010 harvest is the smallest in volume we have had since 1945 . We had an average harvest of 30 hl/ha, which is 60% less than a regular harvest. The must weights were good to very good up to TBA, and we harvested all qualities except Eiswein. The acidity was fairly high so we needed to deacidify but we did it in the must, and we don’t see any quality disadvantages so far. We had quite a bit of Botrytis, but a healthy one for the harvest time, that’s why we will probably get very good noble sweet wines, combined with higher levels of acidity, so those wines will hold up forever. The dryer wines could be harvested with just a bit of Botrytis so they will be clean and as is typical from us. We will produce only 50% of our Silberlack due to the small harvest and we expect it to be in-between the 06 and 07 style, but probably 100% oak fermented (Stückfass 50 -100 years old and 2-3 years old).
Why did it happen that way?
It started with a very long winter with cold temperatures almost until May. The blossoming in June was a bit later than usual and colder temperatures made the blossoming very uneven with “verrieselt” or shot berry (when single blossoms don’t become a grape, and the cluster gets more loose). We did not greenharvest at that time which we normally would do, since we knew already it would be a smaller harvest.
The rest of June war OK with good development, the August was the wettest since we started recording weather conditions. September was too wet as well and the berries became too
big and the skins to thin. The first botrytis came too early and the greenharvest was already a negative selection of Botrytis to keep the rest healthy. With the beginning of October, good sunny dry weather started and we started the Harvest October 4th. Some good things happened, as healthy grapes gained must weights by evaporation and botrytis on ripe grapes dried out, so we had finally positive developments in both healthy and botrytis grapes. We finished the harvest already on October 21. The grapes were very tight and contained less juice than in a normal year.
This year was very challenging and I believe you will see next year a big diversification in quality all over Germany from great to poor. The 2010 vintage is a vintner year, those who are excellent in their job will have good to very good wines and than there are the others. Despite the difficulties in the year, that average quality will be much better than expected. There will be a lot of differences in quantities as well even inside the Rheingau it differs from 15% to 60% less volume than a regular harvest. For Germany as a whole the harvest was about 25 % less, with early ripening grapes especially difficult, but Riesling will show some good to very good examples.
– By Christian Witte, Schloss Johannisberg, Rheingau.
New York (Finger Lakes)
All across New York State, from Long Island to the Finger Lakes and Lake Erie, unusually warm weather throughout 2010 resulted in a harvest that was two or three weeks earlier than normal, depending on the variety and region. In addition, the hot, dry weather in summer and early fall produced clean, excellent fruit quality. In the Finger Lakes, where most New York Riesling is produced, some rain and cooler weather in early October temporarily slowed the harvest but did not affect the quality, so Finger Lakes Riesling producers are expecting their best quality vintage in at least a decade.
–By Jim Trezise, President, New York Wine & Grape Foundation based on Cornell Cooperative Extension reports.
2010 Washington Riesling Telegram: Late season, high acids, low yields, high noble botrytis – stop – quality good to high – end.
This is the latest season for Pacific Rim and probably for Washington as a whole. We have finished picking on November 17th, the latest end of harvest ever for us. The cool spring delayed ripening greatly and a good Indian summer allowed us to steer away from a complete disaster. At the end, the fermenting wines are showing great natural acids which will be fine for sweeter Rieslings – we have decided not to make any Dry Riesling this year and focus on the sweeter styles.
We have seen large botrytis infections that dried out nicely though it ended up lowering yields dramatically. I expect a 20% drop in yield overall in Washington for mature vineyards. It is not clear right now if the new plantings will offset the loss from their older brethren – I suspect the total Riesling harvest to be down 10% overall versus the record 2009 harvest. The botrytis is adding a very nice fourth dimension to the sweet styles and the quality of sweet Rieslings is very high. Several wineries (us included) will make a noble rot infected Riesling this year.
A very unusual harvest for Washington that should reward patient and skilled winemakers. It is definitely a vintage that will be made in the cellar.
–By Nicolas Quille, Winemaker and General Manager, Pacific Rim Winemakers.